First Time Universal Orlando for Honeymoon Tips?


#1

Hey all!

So my fiancee and I have decided to give Universal a try for the first time for both of us! My family and I go to Disney all the time and my SO has been with us before. I'm doing my research on Universal but I like to hear from people who have actually gone before.

I have a few questions:

  1. We plan to use one of Universal's hotels. Any preference for honeymoon? We don't mind kids being around but would prefer a more quiet atmosphere.

  2. Are the meal plans worth it? We are considering their full dining plan with the one sit down and one quick service.

  3. Transportation from Orlando International Airport to Universal: Is their shuttle worth it? From what I am seeing it looks like it is an extra cost.

  4. For my Harry Potter fans, any tips/suggestions? We will most likely spend our time in the Wizarding World areas.

  5. For Disney, we use a travel agent. Would it be wise to find one for Universal?

Thanks in advance! We plan to be there in September for 4 days/3 nights.


#2

First, congratulations!!! You will find planning Universal is waaaay easier than planning Disney. Let's see what I can offer...

  1. I would suggest Portofino Bay or Royal Pacific. PB is the top of the line onsite hotel and has free Express Pass but is also the most expensive for the most part. RPR is the cheapest onsite that also offers Express Pass, but is also pretty. I would guess there may be fewer kids at PB.

  2. The general consensus is that meal plans at Universal are not worth it. You end up spending more money than you would otherwise. They do offer a counter service plan that you can purchase at the time you purchase your meal. It includes an entree, two drinks and a snack, and depending on what meal you purchase, it can save you money. The items can be spread out over multiple visits and the card never expires.

  3. Most people recommend grabbing a cab at the airport or hiring a private car. You don't waste time making multiple stops like with the shuttle, and it is very easy to do.

  4. I am a huge Harry Potter freak - I mean fan. I would suggest that you download the free ebook that is on the Touring Plans website all about the Wizarding World. If you are on Lines, there have also been tip threads that have been added on there. I will say this. Give yourself a lot of time to spend in The Wizarding World. I can easily spend an entire day doing nothing but Harry Potter stuff. There is so much detail to take in and between the shows and rides and food and spell-casting, you could be busy for hours. Be sure to visit both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in both the daylight and nighttime.

  5. You most definitely don't need a travel agent. Tickets can be found cheapest on sites like Undercover Tourist and the hotels can be booked directly. If you are staying long enough, you may qualify for the stay more, save more promotion and get a better deal on your hotel. Usually, though rarely, you can find additional hotel discounts on sites like Orbitz and hotels.com.

If you have any additional questions, ask away!


#3

I concur with @rebeecky on a lot of things

1 - Portofino Bay. Having been to Italy - it has captured the tone and tenor of Italy. Very nice. Service is top notch. Other hotels are nice as well - but think Porofino is a step up

2 - Skip the meal plans.

3 - We got a car service. Destination MCO. It was WELL WORTH IT. Especially on your honeymoon - you want to feel pampered a bit. The driver helped us with our luggage. The car was parked off by itself very close to baggage claim. As the masses went one way -we went by ourselves another. It instantly got us into a relaxed mood. I Highly recommend them - Destination MCO. Actually if you book at Portofino they can set it up for you via concierge - even if you are not staying in concierge.

4 - Get there early. Hit the big rides and then just enjoy. Bring your robes and other HP memorabilia as everyone is into it. Don't rush - but just enjoy all the details. They blew WDW AWAY in this area of the park

5 - NO - you do not need a travel agent. Book the hotel directly and then get your tickets from a lower cost broker. We used Undercover Tourist. Saved $$$. There is NO benefit of booking a package. If you book separately you can save a lot of money and there is no impact to service, amenities etc. You can get your ticket from Undercover Tourist and you will STILL have Express Pass / early morning privileges - plus extra $$ for the SPA!!


#4

I second the notion of getting a car service. We did that using the Mears private car service. When we got off the plane, someone was waiting there at baggage claim for us. He took our luggage, walked us to the car and we were on Universal property literally within 25 minutes of getting off the plane. To me, having that extra time was well worth any cost.


#5

Thank you all SO MUCH for the advice! Every penny counts for us so I'm glad ya'll mentioned ways to save money and what is worth it or not! I thought the AAA discount was worth it, but I'm getting ready to number crunch and see how separating the package deal components goes!


#6

If you are trying to save money - look at all 3 hotels (Portafino,Hard Rock and Royal). We did Portafino as we are a family and they had queen beds. As you are getting married - I SUGGEST a KING bed - everyone will be happy!! But all of them are nice - we did Portafino as they had bigger beds and theaming) HA. Look at all the hotel rates (and check them out on different sites) to determine their cost. They all offer AAA but you can book directly through the hotel. Also tell them you are there on your honeymoon and they may be able to upgrade you (especially if you ask nicely). We asked for a specific location - BOOM got it no problem.

Also sign up for LOWES HOTELS points. Costs nothing but the loyalty card goes a little way in them providing extra help.

Don't do the dining plan and have ONE nice meal. Save more by having your nice meal at lunch. But we also packed breakfast - saved all sorts of time and money and no one felt "denied". We would also get a slightly late lunch and then have wine and appetizers at dinner overlooking the water. Relaxing and delicious.

Don't worry about the room view. We did get water - only as it was $5 / night more expensive - but we only saw it for about 10 minutes a day so not really worth the upgrade. Know where you want to stay within the hotel and work with them to get as close to that location as possible.

Also ask at the hotel what special packages they have - such as SPA or ROMANCE as you are on your honeymoon.

You WILL want park hopper tickets though - especially if you want to do Hogwarts express. ENJOY!!


#7

Congratulations!

I have a slightly different view on a few items, but not too much. I am a total cheapskate..I mean I am frugal, so I have a little different take.

  1. What everyone else said.

  2. Meal plans are a toss up at times. We bought the quick meal, snack and cup and saved some cash. Not a huge amount, but enough to do it. If you buy a particularly expensive quick meal, you can add on and get the card at time of payment so you can optimize if you like with little commitment.

  3. Shuttle is extra cost--and my experience with it was different than the other commenters. I am using it again and it was 35 each for a round trip. I travelled in June with heavy crowds. We went directly from airport to hotel and I didn't load my bag, the driver did. Same for the drive back to the airport. At that time Uber was quoting min of 100 bucks round trip. This al depends on how much you want to spend.

  4. What everyone else said.

  5. I am lazy. No travel agent for me and I didn't spend any time shopping around. I went to the universal site and booked my trip there---one and done! I am sure I paid more, but honestly, I was happy to just get it over. I booked that way last time I went and the customer service was great. Me, the other Mom chaperone and the three newly graduated high schoolers got off the plane, whipped by the universal store, picked up a travel wallet with all of our passes in it (tickets, meals at the two Harry Potter places, and Shutterbuttons) maps, plus our shuttle pass. And they tracked our flight status and called me at the airport to let me know they had rescheduled the shuttle. They moved ticket pick up to a desk, but I expect the same this trip. It's just me and the husband. My ten whole minutes spent online with a five minute phone call to update my airline ticket times for the shuttle was great for me. One less thing to stress over.

I wish you all the best.


#8

I think you will love it!! The major thing I enjoyed about Universal and the Express Pass is the LACK of planning you have to do. I would NOT equate Ex Pass to Fast Pass - two separate animals. Express pass benefit at the above 3 hotels is Fully worth any extra cost in the resorts. The transportation between the resorts and the parks is sublime. The boats / walkways make it easy, fast and enjoyable to get to and from.

I do have to say the Portafino has an extra level of relaxation to it. If you can swing it and think you will spend time to enjoy the resort - HIGHLY recommend it. If you find the resort a place to lay your head - save the money.

Best to you and your spouse - Its fitting that you are going to an amusement park to start your life. After being happily married for 19 years I can tell you that marriage is like an amusement park.
1 - It is thrilling
2 - It is expensive
3 - you sometimes feel like throwing up
4 - but you love it